What are the differences between short sales, foreclosures, and REOs?

by vbrasil on March 9, 2009

With the number of foreclosures skyrocketing in California in recent years, there is a lot of interest from would be buyers in purchasing bank owned properties which are also known as real estate owned or REOs.
What is a short sale?

What is a Short Sale?

Short sales occur when the value of the property is less than the encumbrances or liens on the property.  The property is still owned by the owner and not the bank.  It is being sold with the understanding that the total liens on the property will not be satisfied by the proceeds of the sale.  Therefore the owner will need the lien holders approval to be able to sell the properety.  This can take months to get approved, and may not end in a successful sale.

What is Foreclosure?

When a property is in foreclosure, the owner has stopped making payments and the lender has given the borrower a written Notice of Default that the payments must be brought up to date or the property will be sold off. The notice is a public document (which is why so many websites offer foreclosure lists). It normally takes about two missed payments for a lender to issue a Notice of Default, but not always.

Notice of Trustee’s Sale, after receiving a Notice of Default, the owners of a property allow their home to be foreclosed, then a Notice of Trustee’s Sale gets posted by the trustee. This is usually the trustee holding the primary note. In California, it’s not the bank that forecloses, it’s the Trustee.

Once the trustee decides to foreclose, it goes to a Trustee’s Sale. This sale is held on the courthouse steps in the applicable county. Usually, the bank buys its’ own property from the trustee for the full amount owed on the primary mortgage. In the current market, the price the bank pays to obtain the property is often more than market value. Any subsequent mortgage holders get nothing. The “courthouse steps” is typically not a good place for a potential end-user to buy the property – it’s geared towards investors who buy many properties at wholesale prices. In fact, it can be a downright unfriendly environment if you don’t know how the game is played.

What is an REO?

Once the bank has purchased the home, it is now foreclosed and is called an REO (Real Estate Owned). The bank will then usually list the property at or near full market value and place it on the local MLS.

Finally on the Market. At this point, it shows up on the MLS as an REO and your Realtor can show it to you. Once the bank purchases the home at the Trustee’s Sale and it’s now an REO, the bank tries to get as much for it as possible. The price usually goes back up to at or very near market price.

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